Thriving on Campus and in Cyberspace:
Staying Connected While Succeeding in School

(Presentation Designed for College Students)

Thriving on Campus and in CyberspaceHOW IS YOUR BRAIN LIKE THIS JAR OF JELLY BELLIES?
And how can you use this information to do better in your classes and have more free time to have fun? Engage in some “brain exercises” and learn how your brain reacts when you’re studying, writing papers, surfing the Internet, multitasking, and interacting with friends. Then learn some easy, fun things to do to promote your academic success.


Today’s undergraduates face enormous pressure to succeed at the same time they’re being barraged with unprecedented levels of digital distraction. Many professors note the difficulty of lecturing to students who are surfing the Internet or texting their friends in class. Solutions like banning this behavior or even blocking wireless input are sometimes tried, but these attempts are often ignored or resented by students. The only way around these distractions is to change students’ attitudes. We can help them understand why their brains don’t function well under constant distraction and give them simple strategies for overcoming these temptations while not missing out on the cyber-connections they crave.

The presentation is nonjudgmental. It is fun, memorable, encouraging, and anxiety-reducing. Virtually all students who see this presentation say they would recommend it to a friend.

I have based this presentation on my 26 years of teaching and doing research at the University of Wisconsin-Madison; my book Conquer CyberOverload: Get More Done, Boost Your Creativity, and Reduce Stress; and my well-received presentations on this topic to students, professional organizations, and members of the general public.

The good news about the presentation is that it doesn’t just tell students what not to do; it gives them advice on positive things they can do to achieve more. And it reassures them that becoming a workaholic is not the answer.

The main points of the presentation are:

  • Your brain can’t multitask; it can only switch back and forth between tasks, and when you do this, you lose speed, accuracy, and quality.
  • Information overload blocks creativity. Students learn both of these concepts not just by hearing about the research but by performing illustrative brain exercises.
  • Focusing on one thing at a time and TAKING BREAKS is your best route to both success and enjoyment.

The take-aways include:

  • You can get better and faster results if you do two things one after the other than by trying them at the same time.
  • You can use sleeping (really!), exercise, and interacting with nature to work smarter and more creatively.
  • You can still stay connected to your friends in cyberspace.
  • You can be healthier and less anxious, and avoid burnout.
  • It’s all about managing your cyber-connectedness, not giving it up.
  • Being a workaholic doesn’t work; balance works best for both achievement and enjoyment.

Inquire about booking Dr. Cantor.

For more information about this program, read Dr. Cantor’s article, “Getting Students to Turn Off Digital Distractions and Tune Into Lectures and Learning.”

What Students Are Saying About “Thriving on Campus and in Cyberspace”

“I really learned some great ways to work more efficiently! I am a multitasker, but now I have some practical ways to focus while reducing overload. I can’t wait to try some of these methods!”

“I really liked the visuals and the Stroop and Cantor tests — it’s always fun and engaging to involve the entire class. There was lots of great information as well! I will totally use it! Thank you!”

“Very interesting, very informative. This is something that I think all college freshmen should hear.”

“I really wanted to thank you for coming in today, and tell you how much I enjoyed and appreciated what you had to say. I am the definition of the type of multi-tasker you described, and so your presentation today really hit home with me. This was kind of a reality check for me, and was able to answer some of my questions of why I sometimes find it hard to focus on work, or pay attention in class. It really is all about the distractions, and trying to do 10 things at once. After class today I went online and suspended my facebook, and changed my internet home page away from a fashion blog I follow. I have also decided to eliminate my laptop from the lectures I wish to focus on more, where hand-writing things will be more effective. I am also looking into purchasing your book shown in the beginning of class, and look forward to reading it! You were great today. Thanks so much for coming in- I really learned a lot.”

“I thought this was an excellent presentation and that every student in college should experience it. Everything we learned today applies to us, college students. I learned ways to help manage stress, which is great to hear right now because I’m in the middle of exams. I thought I was a great multitasker, but now I know that’s impossible. I learned ways to study and do work more efficiently and effectively.”

“Really interesting lecture; I really will take a lot of this info to heart!”

“Lots of good examples were used that involved the class. They kept the class interested while also proving the points that were made. Useful tips were also given to improve our learning skills.”

“I was very interested by the information in the presentation about multi-tasking. I had no idea that multitasking does absolutely nothing for the tasks that I am doing. I really liked learning real information that can help me become more productive while I start a time in my educational career when I really need to be more productive.”

“Very excellent lecture about time management. Never thought about some of these strategies.”

“This presentation gave me a lot of very helpful strategies on time management, more effective learning methods, and interesting as well as new insights. I’m looking forward to trying these tips and reading the book. Thank you.”

“I thought it was very interesting and extremely helpful! I especially enjoyed the interactive tests because I felt involved and it proved the points. It was great!”

“Lots of good examples were used that involved the class. They kept the class interested while also proving the points that were made. Useful tips were also given to improve our learning skills.”

“Very inspiring & helpful.”


What Faculty Are Saying About “Thriving on Campus and in Cyberspace”

“…You have to be brave to tell students not to multi-task, and you have to be a great speaker to be able to convince them about the potential downside. Joanne was great! It was clear, both from the students’ level of engagement during the talk and from their comments afterwards, that Joanne’s pleasant, non-threatening style really wooed them out of their initial skepticism about the potential downside of multi-tasking. … She then did a lovely job of convincing them of how hard it is to divide one’s attention – not only by sharing some of the latest research in a very engaging, nontechnical fashion, but also by giving them tasks that demonstrated how difficult it is. They laughed at their mistakes, but they also got the point… As one junior in my class wrote afterwards,

‘The strategies of multitasking vs. task switching was a great aspect of the presentation. I thought I was a good multitasker but now I see, I’m probably not. Also I’ve become so forgetful recently and information overload definitely explains what’s going on. Brilliant presentation, engaging and informative. I didn’t even surf the web!’

Importantly, the talk didn’t simply end with the message that it’s inefficient to multi-task. Rather, Joanne offered students a series of concrete, practical suggestions about how to study better and live healthier, more balanced lives. It was clear that these really resonated. Student after student wrote how relevant and useful they found the material. As one sophomore wrote,

‘I thought this presentation was amazing! It was very interesting and it was perfect timing for finals. Great information to know before hitting the books for finals.’

Numerous students wrote that they would try the strategies, and informal questions several weeks later suggested that many of them were really trying hard to change their work styles, based on Joanne’s suggestions. As one student wrote, in a heartfelt note afterwards,

‘Soooo helpful!! Thank you for coming!’

Those were my sentiments exactly!
–Marie-Louise Mares, Associate Professor of Communication Arts, University of Wisconsin-Madison
See the entire letter


The Challenges of Studying in College

Multitasking Exercises

What Research Says about Multitasking

Information Overload Exercise

Practical Steps for Success

Processing the Handout